50 Best Comics of the Decade (2000-2019)



50 - Angel & Faith: Seasons Eight & Nine 
Christos Gage & Rebekah Isaacs


Overshadowing the main book in Dark Horse's continuing story of the Buffy, the Vampire Slayer universe, following the conclusion of the television series, is this really thoughtful, character-focused title from Rebekah Isaacs and Christos Gage. This book has a lot of heart and while Angel and Faith both confront their troubled pasts, this book isn't bogged down by it like its counterpart. They cross paths with familiar faces, but also introduce us to fresh new characters, like Giles' family, complete with interesting dynamics and focused storylines. Gage and Isaacs strike the perfect balance of keeping true to the source material and making it their own.  Gage captures the voice of the characters so clearly I can hear the actors recite the dialogue he provides for them in my head as I'm reading, while bringing them to new, interesting places in terms of plot and character.  Isaacs also captures the actors' physical likeness enough that they are recognizable, yet makes them her own so that they're not stiff and photo-referenced, but rather fluid and natural. This is a really fun romp that is beautifully executed on every scale.



49 - Smurfs
Peyo & Various

Papercutz' reprints of Peyo's Smurf comics, which inspired the cartoon that millions have come to know and love, are the first time many readers have been able to read the Smurfs comics in America, including myself.  I spent hours upon hours watching Smurfs on television on Saturday mornings growing up, but I had no idea that they'd been based on a popular Belgian comic until this archival project was announced.  But the comics are every bit as magical and entertaining as I remember the smurfs from my childhood being, and are just a lot of fun to read as an adult.  The first volume released was The Purple Smurfs, containing the classic story that the volume is named for, and perhaps the best story of the bunch.  These are all great little stories surrounding the little blue guys who have a knack for finding trouble.


48 - Seconds
Bryan Lee O'Malley

This trippy fantasy about a girl lost as she grows into adulthood, begs the question: what would happen if you got a second chance?  Or as many second chances as it took to make things perfect?  Well, things don't go quite as planned for our protagonist, thankfully, because this is one fun graphic novel that unravels the fabric of reality for the whims of a well-intentioned girl going about things the wrong way.  O'Malley follows up his Scott Pilgrim series with a real winner, illustrating that he still has plenty of imaginative tales left up his sleeve.



47 - Avengers vs. X-Men
Various

It's not very often that company-wide crossovers are executed well. Usually many "tie-in" titles are bogged down in them for months upon months of half-cooked stories for a semi-interesting final product. Not so for Avengers vs. X-Men. In this thoughtful mini-series event, not only were there great story notes that they hit along the way, from shocking moments to great character scenes, but books tied into the main story could easily create a story around a pretty basic premise: battles between mutants and Avengers. And books like Uncanny X-Men and Avengers Academy shined amidst the chaos. But the real winner was the main story in the mini-series that pit Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, Hulk and friends against the likes of Cyclops, Emma Frost, Colossus, Namor and Magik. It highlighted some epic fights people have been waiting to see, and had shocking moments and a satisfying conclusion, with plenty of gray area left in the dust of battle. This is perhaps the single best crossover in superhero history, as it worked on so many levels, and so well.


46 - Wandering Son
Shimura Takako


Wandering Son follows two transgendered children, depicted realistically in a gentle story full of subtle but powerful storytelling.  I really like the main characters - they're portrayed well and are personable, as are much of the supporting cast. The soft art style compliments the riveting journey of these children perfectly.


45 - Animal Man
Jeff Lemire & Travel Foreman


This dark superhero title was one my favorite titles that launched out of DC's New 52.  Jeff Lemire crafted an atmospheric comic full of creeping dread, that turned into something very thought-provoking and pretty trippy. He attached really neat elements to Animal Man's mythos, and maneuvered the title into horror territory that was reminiscent of Alan Moore's Swamp Thing (a character who is vital to this title).  Travel Foreman is the perfect artist to bring this dark tale to life, with really fantastic monster designs, and art to match Lemire's dark vibe. The pacing on this title is spot-on and it's really an unforgettable take on this character.


44 - Hawkeye
Matt Fraction, David Aja & Various


This smart, street level superhero comic has a great cast of characters in what have come to be witty, thrilling stories.  Kate Bishop, a member of the Young Avengers, is the partner that Clint Barton didn't know he needed.  They have an interesting dynamic, and it seems inevitable that Kate will take over the mantle of Hawkeye one day. But until then, we get to see Barton continually screw things up and clean up his messes. David Aja offers amazing artwork on this title, often with clever panel arrangements, while Fraction breathes life into this fascinating supporting cast.


43 - Killing and Dying
Adrian Tomine

Adrian Tomine is no stranger to acclaim - in fact, he had my favorite comic of 2007 with his powerful graphic novel Shortcomings.  Killing and Dying is a collection of six stories, mostly from his Optic Nerve series.  Many of the stories are about people struggling to find themselves, and while each are very different from one another, they are all terrific and most of them are quite moving.  Tomine has a way of capturing moments in a way that make them feel genuine, and you kind of can't help but feel a real connection to his work.  Whether struggling to be taken seriously as an artist, or fumbling through an abusive relationship, these stories are powerful.  My favorite story in this collection is "Amber Sweet," about a girl in college who wonders if it's her imagination that people are talking about her, until she discovers a porn actress who looks almost exactly like her, throwing her world into a tailspin of self-doubt and embarrassment.  Tomine gets a lot of things right with his work - characters, pacing, dialogue - and he draws it all with a confident hand.


42 - Vision
Tom King & Gabriel Hernandez Walta

In a very interesting title featuring Avenger Vision, we see the android superhero put down roots in the suburbs with his wife and two children.  Amid prejudice and admiration, the Visions have trouble settling in, especially as they grapple with what fitting in means.  Manslaughter and blackmail complicate matters as these androids struggle to understand human nature and wade deeper and deeper into their lies to appear like the perfect family.  This is a page-turner that's unlike anything out there in the superhero realm.


41 - Wytches
Scott Snyder & Jock

This genuinely frightening horror comic from Scott Snyder and Jock is paced beautifully, crafted for maximum scares, and features witches that somehow feel real, despite what they are.  Steeped in creepy lore, and set in an unsettling small town, thick with forest, this surreal story has that creeping dread that makes horror so fun.


40 - Beauty
Kerascoet & Hubert

In this epic fairy tale, the team who created the excellent Miss Don't Touch Me books explores the many different sides of beauty.  How beauty can change a person, and the people around them, drawing out lust as well as envy and greed, vanity and despair, and of course, happiness.  Coddie is granted any wish she desires when she kisses a frog and releases a fairy from a magical spell.  Having been shunned for her homeliness her entire life, she only wishes for one thing: beauty.  And that wish will change the course of not only her life, but her village, and even her entire country.  Deftly told with real vision and an ever-expanding scope, this lovely story is one that sticks with you well after you've set it down.


39 - Otherworld Barbara
Moto Hagio

Otherworld Barbara (Moto Hagio) - Moto Hagio is one of the greats.  This epic tale is divided into two volumes, a story of dreamscapes, cannibalism and immortality.  The story itself seems very dreamlike, as Dr. Watari delves into a young girl's dreams to try to understand why she won't awaken, and what connection she has to the mysterious island of Barbara. Hagio's beautiful, soft lines weave an intriguing mystery full of compelling characters, crazy twists and puzzling connections that, like a dream, seem just out of reach.  Hagio could just draw a book of rocks and I would love looking at her artwork, but the human drama, tension and pacing here are something truly epic.


38 - Pompeii
Frank Santoro

Santoro can draw the hell out of a comic when he wants, but he seems more interested in experimenting with art and setting atmosphere and mood, something that makes Pompeii resonate so much.  Revolving around the lives of an artist and his apprentice leading up to the catastrophic volcanic eruption that destroys a lively city, Pompeii paints a picture of very real characters caught up in their own lives before nature crushes them, and leaves quite an impression in its wake.


37 - My Pretty Vampire
Katie Skelly

At once gory and beautiful, My Pretty Vampire is a delicious story that follows a vampire escaping a safe sanctuary to indulge in her basest urges in a spree of murder and mayhem.  Skelly is pretty much a visual genius.  Her use of color alone is fabulous: vibrant and loud, with some really trippy panels.  The story reads like a B-movie, but that only adds to its charm.  Have I mentioned the colors?  Because I can't think of another graphic novel that makes such good use of them.



36 - Rosalie Lightning
Tom Hart

Tom Hart recounts the heartbreaking tragedy of his daughter Rosalie's sudden death.  The young couple try to find meaning in her last days as they attempt to move on, while dealing with constant reminders and feelings of guilt and depression.  This memoir feels so heart-wrenchingly honest and real, as the author bares his soul during this dark time, his frenzied artwork an extension of that emotion.  But it's also a celebration of a beautiful girl's young life in her formative years.  Deeply touching and traumatizing.


35 - Sabrina
Nick Drnaso

Sabrina becomes a national story when she goes missing, and is later found murdered in a man's apartment.  Her boyfriend, Teddy, deals with the fallout as he stays with a friend out of town.  This book is almost suffocating in its suppressed grief, and the paranoia that fills the minds of its characters.  The layers to this story are kind of mind-boggling, and maybe hit a little too close to home in today's political climate.  Disturbing and wholly engrossing.


34 - Snotgirl
Bryan Lee O'Malley & Leslie Hung

Lottie is a fashion blogger - a self-absorbed fashion blogger who is utterly jealous of her ex's new homely girlfriend, is judgmental of others and makes up mean nicknames for her friends, and has a penchant for murder.  Oh, and she also has allergies that make her sensitive to dripping copious amounts of mucus, a small blight that has the potential to ruin the perfect persona she puts out there of a fashionista, earning her fame and invites to the best parties.  This book is delightfully entertaining and deliciously catty, making it very difficult hard to put down.


33 - Devilman: The Classic Collection
Go Nagai

This series is insane, and also insanely good.  As a human boy merges with a powerful demon to become something in between, the Devilman battles hordes of ancient beings as they attempt to conquer the world and devour humanity along the way.  The designs of the demons are crazy and absolutely ridiculous, and the fast pacing, the homoerotic undertones, and the breath-taking action sequences make for a doozy of a manga.  It's no wonder this is a classic.


32 - The Poe Clan (Volume 1)
Moto Hagio

Originally published in Japan in the 70's, this classic shojo manga from master cartoonist Moto Hagio made its way stateside courtesy of Fantagraphics Books. The story follows a family of vampires, focusing on a pair of siblings who were turned at a young age, Edgar and Marybelle, and the trouble they have fitting in among humans. As always, Hagio's pencils are elegant and soft, works of art in themselves. Melodramatic, ethereal and full of aching mystery swirling just beneath the surface, this is a vampire tale for the ages.


31 - Underground
Jeff Parker & Steve Lieber

This is an exciting little action comic that follows two park rangers who catch some dangerous men hired to set off explosives in Stillwater Cave, and are driven deep into the cave to escape them in a desperate bid for survival.  Along the way, they encounter walls of rock, high water and near misses in this fast-paced, claustrophobic read.  I think that Steve Lieber's artwork is what really makes this book work.  He had the experience on the Whiteout comics to make a harsh environment come to life with the obstacles of making it look very cold, and also to make the art exciting when sometimes the pages would be just full of the white snow.  Here, he brings that same sort of technique to life in the opposite manner, having to use the sparse light from the character's flashlights and flares to force back the deep shadows of the cave.  It's a very dark book, lots of black, but the panels are expertly lit with shade.  And the action is really intense and often brutal, so the story just flies by.  Lieber paces the story with ease, drawing out tension, and making the protagonists' desperate plight come alive.


30 - Sand Chronicles
Hinako Ashihara

No shojo manga gets me more emotional than this series does.  Every time I crack open a volume, it's inevitable that tears are going to follow.  This smartly-written manga with troubled, fully-realized characters, follows Ann, whose mother committed suicide when she was young, and has had that experience hanging over her her entire life, sometimes subconsciously causing her to do things that hurt her or those around her, and sometimes making decisions that aren't necessarily the healthiest.  Her story is full of love, loss, depression and feeling generally directionless.  But just as fascinating as the places that Ann goes in this story are the back stories of the characters around her, all of whom have their own issues to contend with.  The revelations keep coming as this series winds towards its conclusion, but this is one emotional roller coaster that I'm glad I had the opportunity to experience.


29 - My Favorite Thing is Monsters (Volume 1)
Emil Ferris

This dense monster of a graphic novel is a rich book that weaves the lives of several people together through the eyes of a girl in love with monsters, and even considers herself one.  As Karen investigates the murder of a neighbor, the lives of those around her, and their secrets, come into focus.  I love how multi-layered the characters of this books are, and how Ferris dives into their rich histories, while keeping the main focus of the story grounded with Karen.  Ferris's art is lovely, cartoony yet realistic, with a sketchy style that is appropriate for a book that is told through a girl's notebook, complete with chapters that begin with "covers" of monster comics, lined pages and hole punches.  Sometimes disturbing, but always human, this is a literary treat that people will be talking about for years to come.



28 - The Wicked + The Divine
Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie

 Gods are reincarnated every ninety years for two short years in The Wicked + The Divine, which sees gods from various pantheons demonstrating their abilities for the masses of the modern world.  Gillen manages to make the type of story we've heard before into something completely fresh and inventive, with imaginative storylines, screwed-up characters, and pop culture commentary.  McKelvie's art has never looked better, utilizing a colorful palate for these gods to come to life in all of their destructive, self-absorbed glory.  It's no secret that I've been a fan of these two creators for years now, and they have really outdone themselves with this fantastic series. When I read through the second collected volume in particular, with its twists and turns and petty rivalries, there were moments that literally made my jaw drop in shock.  A really entertaining comic.


27 - Frontier #7
Jillian Tamaki

Frontier is a comics anthology that features a different cartoonist each issue, and the seventh issue, featuring Jillian Tamaki, blew me away.  It's done in a documentary style that chronicles an internet phenomenon, some eerie music/sounds from SexCoven.  Its origins are mysterious, and the trances it supposedly puts people in, and the effect it has on people, is downright chilling.  This comic is just a really cool, creepy concept, and in other hands, it would not have been as effective.  It really does seem like this cult thing that could have blown up, with some people dismissing it, and others becoming obsessed.  The ideas here are inspired, and Tamaki really showcases her skills as a storyteller in a big way.


26 - An Aurora Grimeon Story: Will o' the Wisp
 Tom Hammock & Megan Hutchison

Aurora goes to live with her grandfather after her parents die, on an isolated island where the residents believe in hoodoo, bad luck and malevolent spirits.  Something evil has come to wreak vengeance on the island, and it slowly grows stronger in this atmospheric graphic novel that oozes creeping dread. Boasting a fantastic setting, strong storytelling, and masterful pacing, this is a strong book fantasy readers won't want to miss.


25 - S.W.O.R.D.
Keiron Gillen & Steve Sanders

While S.W.O.R.D. only lasted a mere five issues before it was canceled, it left quite the impression.  As is, we get a wonderful story that follows an odd cast of aliens, mutants and humans who help Agent Abigail Brand run S.W.O.R.D.'s base of operations, which is stationed in Earth's orbit, serving as protector for the planet, from alien threats.  X-Man Beast and the alien Sydren provide comic relief, as does the bounty hunter Death's Head, whose battle with Brand and her friends is one of the best battles I've encountered in comics in recent memory.  I think that what I love most about this title is the tone of the book, that perfect balance between humor and action, with great characters, that perhaps recalls some of the best early issues of the original Claremont/Davis run on Excalibur.


24 - Hilda
Luke Pearson

 Luke Pearson explores a magical world through the eyes of a rambunctious little blue-haired girl named Hilda in this colorful, beautifully-cartooned graphic novel series. Hilda explores the realm of fairies and trolls enthusiastically along the countryside, until she moves to the city with her mother, where she is forced to find her own magic.  I love the gentle nature of this book and the ever-expanding mythology of Pearson's world in this lovely all-ages fantasy title.  Pearson's cartooning is so stunning that you have to stop and admire his work from time to time, especially when he lays out his pages in beautiful ways.  Great designs, lush backgrounds - this is a series that just has so much heart in it.  Anyone not reading it is truly missing out.


23 - Upgrade Soul
Ezra Claytan Daniels

An elderly couple partake in an experiment that could make them young again, complete with new, upgraded bodies.  Things don't go as planned in this beautiful graphic novel, with lovely cartooning by Ezra Claytan Daniels.  The colors are vibrant, the "creature" designs are unsettling, and the slow-burning story that drudges up many philosophical questions, builds toward a startling conclusion.  Daniels makes even the ugly and brutally disturbing moments look beautiful in this unflinching, original story.


22 - Gunnerkrigg Court
Thomas Siddell

This all-ages series has something for everybody: magic, mystery, an epic scope, a demon-possessed toy cat and a great protagonist in Antimony Carver.  Thomas Siddell has built an amazing world, with lush history and complex characters inhabiting the dark hallways of Gunnerkrigg Court, and all of the magic and danger that lurks there with them.
.

21 - Walt Disney Classic Reprints



Walt Disney's Donald Duck, Walt Disney's Uncle Scrooge

Carl Barks
&
 Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse
Floyd Gottfredson


Fans have been holding their breath for years for these to be collected. Fantagraphics Books has given some of these classic works by cartoonist legends the star treatment in their reprint line of Walt Disney comics, complete with beautiful packaging and contextual material. Carl Barks is a legend, and his adventure comics featuring Donald Duck and uncle Scrooge are timeless all-ages stories, full of humor and heart. And one of the few noticeable omissions in the golden age of comics strip reprints was Floyd Gottfredson's adventure strip featuring a rascally Mickey Mouse, including the famous Phantom Blot story. Aside from these necessary reprint projects, Fantagraphics has also launched a "Disney Masters" collection, with books focusing on different European creators on their acclaimed runs on Disney comics, including Romano Scarpa and Massimo De Vita. 


20 - Wonder Woman
Brian Azzarello & Cliff Chiang

Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang combined forces to breathe new life into the most iconic female superhero out there. This incarnation of the beloved hero, spawned during DC's New 52, makes the old-world mythology part of her character seem cool and fresh again, as it is balanced with a modern setting. The uses of magic and gods, and the way the story is weaved, is simply masterful, and Chiang's artwork makes the action pop off the pages, complete with stunning character/god/monster designs.


19 - Descender
Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen

This science fiction comic about robots is inspired.  It specifically follows a robot that looks like a little boy, TIM-21, who is being hunted by bounty hunters, and may have some connections to some scary technology.  There's a great cast of characters with varied motives and a mysterious cataclysmic event that occurred in the past, all brought to life through stunning watercolor artwork from Nguyen.


18 - The Littlest Pirate King
David B. & Pierre Mac Orlan

This is David B.'s comic adaptation of the prose story by French writer Pierre Mac Orlan.  The story is a simple one, about a pirate ship manned by an undead crew, who wish for nothing more than to end their existence once and for all, until they come across a human child, whom they raise as one of their own, plumping him up in preparation for the day they actually make him one of them.  It's really David B.'s beautiful pencils that transform this story into something magical.  From the first scenes of the pirate ship cresting swirling waves, to the ship's trek underwater with all manner of sea creatures floating by, to the amazing designs of the pirates themselves, David B. elaborately illustrates this world with amazing mastery of the craft.  The coloring, the pacing and panel arrangements, and the world of these pirates pillaging ships and being general menaces all make for a fun, engaging experience.  This book contains some of the most beautiful panels that I've seen period.


17 - Patience
Daniel Clowes

Jack comes home one day to find his girlfriend, Patience, dead.  To understand why this happened, and by whose hand, Jack finds the key to time travel and steals it, delving into the past to stalk Patience's life, and interfering much more than he intends to.  Daniel Clowes gives Patience a believable, if not messed up, backstory.  Seeing Jack maneuver through her life, knowing what he does, and making discoveries alongside him, is fascinating.  Full of mystery, fun sci-fi, and that darkness that Clowes injects into all of his works, this is another great one from a master cartoonist.


16 - not simple
Natsume Ono

Natsume Ono's art is pretty stylized, probably in not simple more than many of her other works, featuring bug-eyed characters and simple cartoony lines.  It doesn't look like anything anyone else is doing, but it looks really cool.  Her storytelling is equally as enthralling.  not simple tells the story of Ian, a strange, passive character who seems a little too innocent and naive, just going with whatever life throws his way.  A majority of this book sees him trying to achieve a goal he's set for himself so that he can see his sister again, to fulfill a promise he made to her.  But right away, things are fuzzy, as Ian himself isn't even sure if his sister is really his mother.  And once a little inconsistency like that is examined, there are a lot of other revelations that follow suit, coloring in quite the unbelievable life for this soft-spoken guy.  There are many shocking revelations, and interesting turns, in this highly emotional tale that often ventures into territory that's pretty depressing, but makes for a compelling story.


15 - Wolverine and the X-Men
Jason Aaron, Chris Bachalo & Nick Bradshaw

In one of the more unique superhero comics in recent years, Jason Aaron produces a blend of action and humor, perfectly suited by alternating artists Chris Bachalo and Nick Bradshaw. Even when caught up in crossover events, Aaron manages to steer this book into high quality territory, evolving his characters during that conflict, and producing some great dynamics and relationships from out of it. Of course, it's best when he's left to his own devices and is able to focus on the interesting students at the Jean Grey School, as well as the oddball faculty. We get micro-Brood invading Kitty Pryde's body, Wolverine venturing to an intergalactic casino with Quentin Quire, and introduce Krakoa as the living grounds of the school. But it's really the amount of character Aaron injects into subjects like Kid Gladiator, Broo and Rachel Grey, and the artists drawing the hell out of this book, that pushes it into the category of a "classic run." It's fun, whimsical and surprisingly moving at times.


14 - Monstress 
Marjorie Liu & Sana Takeda

Monstress is a really, really special fantasy, a flawless blend of American comic sensibilities and manga.  The world-building on this title is impressive, with a complex, fully-realized world with its own myths and old gods.  The story is intense, as Maika Halfwolf battles witches and armor-clad soldiers in a steampunk world like no other.  Maika is a mysterious figure, who fights her own personal demons - literally, it attempts to come out and eat people around her - while striving to make sense of her past.  Takeda's dark art style is the perfect compliment to Liu's epic tale in this unforgiving world.

Image result for river at night kevin

13 - The River at Night
Kevin Huizenga
In The River at Night, Kevin Huizenga showcases how to use the comics medium to great effect, exploring themes of time and space and thought while his protagonist, Glenn Ganges, has trouble falling asleep. Huizenga flexes his skills masterfully, one moment poignant and reflective, affectionate toward a loved one, while the next delving into the subconscious mind or flashing back in time to explore another theme in greater detail. The whole book has this feeling of discovery and exploration that's exciting, even while it still retains the fuzzy, unfocused quality that Glenn feels as he struggles with his restlessness, willing sleep to claim him.


12 - Beautiful Darkness
Fabien Vehlmann & Kerascoet

This grotesquely beautiful fairy tale sees the little people who live inside of us as they abandon the corpse of a child who dies unexpectedly, learning to survive in the world around them.  The little creatures interact with nature, which is unforgiving, and form cliques that can be as ugly as the rotting corpse that they live around.  The watercolors are utterly fantastic, and the fact that they are so pretty contrasts deliciously with the darkness and decay that pervades the story in a wonderfully perverse way.  There are shocking moments and plenty of disturbing images scattered throughout this rich, elegant graphic novel.



11 - On a Sunbeam
Tillie Walden

Amid the colorful panels of Tillie Walden's space adventure, is a beautiful story of a lost girl who finds a place in the universe.  Mia has been a screw-up for most of her life, until she falls in with a restoration crew that travel aboard a fish-like ship from destination to destination upon a sea of stars.  She has also found, and lost, the love of her life while at school, and must deal with the fallout.  This story of love, family, and facing the impossible for those you care about, is a gentle, slow-burning tale that builds toward a feverish, heart-pounding conclusion.  The art is beautiful, the color used in masterful splashes, the universe incredible, and these are the sorts of characters one falls in love with and never forgets.


10 - The Love Bunglers
Jaime Hernandez


Maggie has always been a special character in the Love & Rockets universe, and her relationship with Jay is given careful consideration in what is perhaps one of Jaime Hernandez's best works to date (and that is saying something). It's bittersweet, startling and full of a strangeness that just rings very, very true. We delve into Maggie's past, which ultimately ties into the future, of a mature woman we've seen develop throughout Love & Rockets over the years, several life-changing events occurring in that time. Jaime develops his characters effortlessly as he confidently, beautifully illustrates this staggering work of beauty and resonating emotional truth.


9 - Building Stories
Chris Ware

This ambitious work by master of the medium Chris Ware is a box of comics that comes with newspapers, a little golden book, and mini comics, as well as full books of comics.  Most of the stories surround an apartment building, exploring its residents, although some side stories explore Branford, a bee outcast from a nearby hive, and continue examining the lives of characters after they've moved out of the building.  It's all fascinating stuff, as Chris Ware has a knack for getting at genuine emotions through his characters, in stories that ring true and are powerful.  A lot is packed in to the pages here, and I love the dense stories, and how some little moments mentioned in one comic will sort of carry over and appear in another.  Reading this is an experience, and it's designed in a stunning package that does justice to its content.


8 - Pogo: The Complete Syndicated Comic Strips
Walt Kelly

Walt Kelly's beloved comic strip seems fully-formed from the get-go.  It's cartooned with amazing skill, and the Sunday pages are colored beautifully.  This strip sees forest creatures interact with one another, with everyman Pogo Possum at the center of the story, but with all sorts of memorable supporting characters such as Albert the alligator, Porky Pine, mischievous Seminole Sam the fox, and rascally Rackety-Coon.  It just amazes me how fantastic this comic is.  The language can be a barrier at first, but you quickly pick up on it, and then it only adds to the overall charm of what is a true classic. Fantagraphics Books did a phenomenal job giving this the presentation it deserves.


7 - Valerian: The Complete Collection
Pierre Christian & Jean-Claude Mezieres

Even if the movie didn't exactly light up the box office, it led to this complete prestige reprint project of the Valerian and Laureline comics, a popular European comic series. These are great science fiction adventure stories that see Valerian and Laureline travel through time, hunt fugitives, and explore fantastic worlds. The introductions give a rich context to the comic's history and influence on pop culture, while the comics themselves are engrossing, exciting stories that make you love these characters more with each subsequent entry. Weird aliens, fantastic worlds with impressively built, creative societies, and silly adventures into Earth's past, come to life through dynamic art and action sequences, making this one of the all-time greats.


6 - Princess Knight
Osamu Tezuka

This epic story of a princess born with both a male heart and a female heart set the tone for shojo manga, and is the god of manga, Osamu Tezuka, at his very best.  Full of action and suspense, we see the brave Princess Sapphire face adversity, such as a scheming ruler, a jealous goddess and an evil witch, in her quest to win the affection of her true love, the neighboring Prince Charming (who faces his own challenges), while striving to reclaim the throne that is rightfully hers. This manga has everything you could want in a story and keeps going in new interesting directions, keeping readers in suspense throughout the perilous struggles of the protagonist.


5 - Satania
Vehlmann & Kerascoet

The art team of Vehlmann and Kerascoet have outdone themselves with their latest offering, Satania, in which a rescue party searches for a missing scientist in a cave system.  They go much deeper than they ever expected, uncovering first an underground kingdom, before venturing into a world unlike any they could have imagined.  Full of strange creatures and alien environments, this is an utter visual masterpiece.  Beautifully colored, richly rendered, and full of unexpected encounters, this is an epic adventure into the bowels of our world, like you've never imagined.  Good thing that Vehlmann and Kerascoet have, because this is an unforgettable whirlwind of a graphic novel.


4 - Cursed Pirate Girl (Volume 1)
Jeremy A. Bastian

Cursed Pirate Girl delighted me from the first panel to the last, as this girl sets out on a quest to track down her father, a pirate king.  Jeremy A. Bastian maneuvers this cursed pirate girl through all sorts of beautiful environments, with eye-popping art that really steals the show.  He arranges elaborate, lovingly constructed panels on the pages, and enchants readers with his attention to detail in creating this amazing, magical world.  The pencils here are stunning and lively, with a real energy, and it's completely unique to anything else out there.  Sometimes it can be haunting, and other times it can just possess you to stop and admire the art depicted on the pages. In my opinion, this is the beginning of a comic masterpiece.


3 - Kitaro
Shigeru Mizuki

Shigeru Mizuki is known for specializing in stories about yokai, and this collection really showcases his strength in that area.  A Japanese pop culture figure, Kataro is a one-eyed monster boy with special powers, and a knack for dealing with pesky yokai.  Mizuki weaves wonderful stories here, full of monsters and demons, some genuinely creepy with images that will stay with you, and others more light-hearted and funny.  This impressive omnibus edition that Drawn & Quarterly released is the perfect introduction to this rambunctious character and the crazy life he leads. Drawn & Quarterly also released digest editions of Kitaro stories for further enjoyment.

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2. Rusty Brown (Part One)
Chris Ware

Chris Ware is the real deal, and while this is only the first part of an epic story, detailing the life and trials of comic nerd Rusty Brown, and various supporting characters, it feels like an opus in the making. At a glance, I always think of Ware's drawing style as a bit cold and detached, a little too calculating and controlled. But once you actually start reading his stories, you get sucked in, and the warmth of those lines springs to life as your eyes devour the pages. Rusty Brown is a pathetic little shit, but you can't help but feel sorry for him as you come to understand him more. The layers of depth to Ware's characters, layers that the characters themselves don't even see, is mind-boggling. That, along with Ware's impressive instincts for pacing, tell this story in the way only a master storyteller could.


1 - The World of Edena
 Moebius

The first release in Dark Horse's Moebius Library is absolutely stunning.  Depicting a future world where gender doesn't exist, and corruption is the norm, Stel and Atan find themselves on a paradise planet where, without the technology that has inhibited them, they begin to revert to their true selves and become self-aware.  Prophecies and fairies, dream monsters and strange alien technology abound in this epic book of star-crossed lovers trying to find one another across a vast, fantastic world where danger lurks around every corner.  Moebius's art is flawless, his designs for the characters and how they evolve, as well as the environments and villains of this world, are magnificent.  There are layers to this story that I don't think you can fully appreciate in just one reading.  The ideas that Moebius piles into this story are ambitious and profound, while he makes his characters complex and flawed.  I've heard about Moebius for years, but now that I've experienced one of his comics -and it truly is an experience - I can understand what the fuss is all about.  Moebius is in a class all his own.
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